Dr Tufton has much to offer

Monday, February 03, 2014    

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Well-thinking Jamaicans, regardless of their political stripe, will be heartened by Dr Christopher Tufton's promise that he will continue to "serve", even though he has resigned as constituency chairman and caretaker for the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) in South West St Elizabeth.

We note Dr Tufton's assertion that "there are many ways to serve, because representation at the constituency level is not the only way".

That's true. Nonetheless, most Jamaicans, we suspect, will be hoping that Dr Tufton quickly finds a way back to political representation at the parliamentary level.

The simple truth is that the Jamaican political process can ill afford loss of the enlightened, thoughtful, visionary and energetic input and leadership which the society came to associate with Dr Tufton during his four years as Cabinet minister and elected MP.

Obviously he made political mistakes. There are those in the JLP who contend that perhaps his biggest error was his challenge — successful though it turned out to be — to Dr Horace Chang for deputy leadership of the JLP's Area Council Four, comprising the western parishes of Trelawny, St James, Hanover, Westmoreland and St Elizabeth.

Many felt that as one who had been part of the National Democratic Movement (NDM), and therefore the object of suspicion in many quarters, Dr Tufton was trying to move too quickly, too aggressively. He should have waited his turn, they said.

His decision to not only side with Mr Audley Shaw in the JLP leadership race but to become arguably the latter's most passionate advocate was always going to be risky. As it turned out, powerful voices in Dr Tufton's home base, South West St Elizabeth, including his parish councillors, went against him.

In fact, as we understand it, Mr Andrew Holness received strong support from the JLP delegates of South West St Elizabeth in that leadership contest.

In that context, if only as a matter of principle, Dr Tufton probably felt he had no choice but to walk away.

Of course, still rankling would have been his demoralising loss by 13 votes to the youthful Mr Hugh Buchanan in the December 2011 general election. To the great surprise of most neutrals, Dr Tufton's victory margin of just under 2,000 votes in 2007, following a brilliant and energetic house-to-house campaign, was completely wiped out.

What most analysts had chosen to ignore is that St Elizabeth South West is the quintessential swing constituency with a history of going with the national winner.

Those of us on the outside can only conclude that Dr Tufton's obviously poor relationship with the party leader was a factor in his decision to quit competitive politics.

In this regard, Dr Tufton must also blame himself. His outburst during the internal leadership campaign about "bright people" was ill-considered and totally unnecessary. It could only fuel bitterness and resentment, which it did.

Likewise, Mr Holness' cynical ouster of Dr Tufton and Mr Arthur Williams from the Senate may well redound to the detriment of the JLP's fortunes going forward.

We suspect all is not lost. In politics, wounds can heal and unlikely alliances forged very quickly, especially when there is an election in the offing.

Soon, we hope, Dr Tufton will find his way back to the hustings. We will not deny that a man of his calibre has much to offer in whatever area he may choose. But we strongly believe it would be to Jamaica's great loss were he to depart representational politics, never to return.





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